Jidenna adds Afrikaan heritage to Western Hip-Hop on The Chief

Most known for the legendary debut of “Classic Man,” Jidenna has proven to be just that. Earlier this year, Jidenna released his first album titled, “The Chief.” I am a fan of Jidenna and the talented artists that make up Wondaland Records, but I would like to put a disclaimer out there that as a fan, it’s only fair to critique the album as honestly as I can, being that honesty is my platform.

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Jidenna with girl-boss extraordinaire of Wondaland Records, Janelle Monae

I’m not a fan of the cover art because the feminist inside me just can’t sit right with it. Being in communications, I’ve learned about advertising and sexist ads and the like, and I’d prefer it to be different. There are many layers to the cover art alone and I can probably write a whole separate blog about it, so I won’t. Plus, let’s be real, this is prevalent in Hip-Hop and it didn’t start with Jidenna.

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The Chief

The overall album tone and theme revolves around Jidenna paying homage to his late father, stepping into manhood and taking his place. He was quoted saying his father would say, “The day I am gone is the day that you become a man.” This is reflected on the album. The music has hints of Afro-beats and trap music. It is blended eloquently and some ballads have hints of other cultures mixed in as well.

There’s No Place Like Home

In “Bull’s Tale” and throughout the album, Jidenna’s Uncle gives him drunken advice on running a village, how to get girls, how to treat your woman and family. It’s comedy but it almost gives me a “home” feeling. Everyone has that one crazy family member…and that’s his Uncle.

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Jidenna is well-known for his signature dapper style.

The best song of the album is “Long Live the Chief” which I believe is the theme song for the album. He references his father, who was a chief in their Igbo village in Nigeria. He was also a noted engineer and created the first African computer. He touches on the type of man his father wanted him to be and him fulfilling that destiny.

He even touches on why he always dresses up in suits. He raps, “Now they say, ‘Jidenna why you dressin’ so classic?’ Cuz I don’t want my best dressed day in a casket.” Jidenna mentions in interviews that his father, like many other Afrikaan families are obsessed with black excellence and perfection. I feel other countries involved in the Afrikaan Diaspora can relate to this, as I do. I’m of Haitian heritage and every point on those A papers would count to my Dad. His song “2 Points” touches on that lightly as well, another song where you’re softly reminded of home.

Turn Up, We Shall

My favorite “turn-up” song on the album is “The Let Out” which is heavy trap beat  and catchy hook that talks about leaving the house to go hang out at the local popular nightclub. It reminds me of broke college kids trying to find something to do but you want to look cute doing it. The local hot spot  where you really just want to dance and not think about anything else.

Sing to me, Darling

I’m a hopeless romantic so it is only right that my favorite tracks on the album are the following sweet-crooning tracks.

I instantly fell in love with “Bambi,” when I first heard the song and music video. It is a lullaby where he is heartbroken over losing a girl that he did wrong but claims as the love of his life. He realizes his mistakes but of course, it’s too late.

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Bambi

The story-line is classic but I love it because it’s usually more difficult for a black man to emotionally express himself and when he does, the words tug at the heartstrings. He also touches on Afrikaan beliefs in polygamy, which in Western culture can relate back to playboys and serial cheaters. He wonders  if he did not grow up learning these behaviors, if his darling would be the love of is life.

truue

I also find it clever he had a play on words like, “Bambi, my dear, my dear, my dear” when Bambi was actually a deer. My favorite line is, “Oh Bambi, it’s my design, to run the jungle I must be a lion, or be a cheetah but neither is fine. I don’t wanna hurt my dear love of my life.” The wordplay is clever because lion signifies liar and cheetah signifies cheater. Nowadays, it’s no that common to have puns and deeper lyrics in mainstream music.   I love this song so much, I’ll be nice and share the video. You’re welcome.

” I don’t wanna hurt my dear love of my life.”

Another fave of mine is “Adaora” which has  Spanish guitar and piano (so beautiful) over a trap beat. He sings on this one and his voice is both raspy and soulful which works organically. It gives me vibes of the 1950s crooner ballads while simultaneously reminding me of West Indian artists. The tone he carries gives me haunting elements of a reggae love song.

Jidenna

A Little Bit More” is light and flirty and reminds me of the islands because of the music video. I must say the music definitely has Afrikaan beats and the dancing is traditional Afrikaan style. It definitely makes me want to learn. I love that the lead is a natural-haired beauty. I feel they challenge the typical beauty standards and are actually showing something a little different by Western culture standards. It’s refreshing.

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There is a song called “Some Kind of Way” which has a mixture of what I can describe as calypso, electronica, and trap. It has a nice techno feel but the message is pretty valid. “No matter what you say, or where you or what you do or how you pray; somebody is gonna feel some kind of way about you.” You wish it weren’t the case but it is the truth. Haters will hate, just always continue to be you. Just be in competition with yourself and shine! “C’est la vie.”

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